Egyptian Project

Ya Amar

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The Egyptian Project is the brainchild of French producer Jérôme Ettinger, who fell in love with Egypt and its music and decided to create a mixture of electronic and acoustic sounds based on that country's traditions. He learned to play the arghul, an Egyptian reed instrument related to the clarinet, and then put together a touring ensemble made up of percussionist Ragab Sadek, violinist and rebab player Salama Metwally, and singer Sayed Eman. The group honed its chops playing live, creating music (including percussion loops) spontaneously within the general structures of pre-written songs. Ya Amar, the ensemble's debut album, was three years in the making, and sounds much more organic than one might expect, knowing how it came about; while electronic sounds are certainly there in the mix, for the most part they are woven in subtly and tend not to distract from Eman's emotive melismas or Metwally's keening rebab; in fact, if you notice the electronic elements at all it will mostly be when they pop up in the form of field-recording vocals ("Besharis") or a deeper and more robust percussion sound ("Anta Ana"). Eman is also a very fine player of the kawala, a cane flute, which he deploys beautifully on the instrumental "Kawala Time." As with most traditional Egyptian music, the raw emotionality of the singing will enthrall some and may leave others cold, but everything here is well worth hearing.

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